More Mindset than Skill Set

“Give it a second…it’s going to space!” Louis C.K.

Here are some thoughts that often run through my head when I get a little frustrated with people complaining about how technology never works for them:

I don’t magically walk by your computer and all of a sudden works.  

I don’t just know this “tech” stuff.  

I also can’t fix anything that has electricity running through it.

Just because I am good with technology doesn’t mean I am the “tech guy”.  My focus is on leadership, teaching, and learning.

In my career, I have always been comfortable sitting with others that are eager to learn technologies and how they can implement them into their teaching.  Although I have found a huge benefit of using technology to improve teaching and learning, I never really started using computers until my first year of teaching. In fact, I never took one technology course in university. Ever.

But that doesn’t mean I just “get this stuff”.  It has been a lot of time of playing around, making mistakes, but also being comfortable that not everything works on the first time.  My technology has failed in presentations, and luckily, since I am a teacher and more importantly a learner, I figure something out.  Sometimes it is how to go all “MacGyver” and create a different solution.  Sometimes it is just finding a solid plan B.

As I grew up, my dad with a limited formal education, was the master of buying weird technologies.  I remember that he bought a horn for his car that you would punch in numbers and it had an assortment of 99 different songs that would be played through the car horn.  Never saw that before and never saw it again but it was pretty cool.  He also bought the first VCR in the town I grew up in, which was two pieces, weighed probably over 50 pounds, and cost over $2000.  He loved playing around and trying new things, whether it was with technology, or in the woodshop.

Seeing that has definitely influenced the work that I do, but also my brother as well.  We are way more tech savvy than my dad ever was, but he still wants to play around with every technology that comes out.

My 82 year old dad on FaceTime with his grandkids about a week after he received his iPad. Picked it up pretty easy :)

What I learned from my dad, is that it is not about your skill set, but more importantly, your mindset, when trying new technologies (that is actually with any learning isn’t it?).  Playing around and actually finding enjoyment and satisfaction in problem solving is something that many “techies” have and my dad has this quality in spades.  He will pick up a technology one day and not understand it.  So the next day, what he does, is he picks it up again.  Guess what happens if he doesn’t get it?  He picks it up again.  Consistency, effort, and the need to just”figure it out”, leads him to better results.

Learning something in a workshop and then not touching it for a month is probably not going to lead you to the desired results.  Where has that ever worked?  I don’t remember playing basketball, shooting free throws one day, and then coming back and being able to dunk 4 months later.  To get better, you have to practice.

This is not to say that I don’t love helping people use technology to improve their teaching and learning; I love it in fact.  What I hope for though is that once I do my part and give you all the support I possibly can, you do your part, and continue to learn.  I am more than willing and excited to come back and help you if you want to get better, but I am going to ask you, what have you done in between?   Eating salad once a month is not going to improve your diet.  (Believe me, I try!)

Too much to ask?

  • eduglean

    Hmm, very refreshing post here, George. Nice to hear someone else say they are not a tech 'God'…but more that it's just about having a good tech-sense, remembering what has working in the past, and knowing how to get answers from people who know. Love your site – keep it up! Paul

  • Nick

    Very good post George. Are you familiar with Carol Dwecks book Mindset?

  • Sue

    I agree that it's about headset. We want our staff and students to be risk takers and problem solvers so we need to model that the sky doesn't fall in if something doesn't pan out. 'Help', 'reset', 'undo' and the many 'forums' are the first port of call for me.
    Mindset is responsible for many blockers.
    Great post.
    Sue

  • Mary

    I agree big time! I love helping others but I don't want to do it for others and there is a difference. Setting up my blog was a two week project with a massive learning curve and many many frustrations and mistakes. But I got there in the end and learnt so much on the way. I find that when some colleagues ask for help, it is really code for will you do it for me? I am very happy to share what I know but people need to realize that the learning takes time and effort. I love the idea of mindset over skill set and I think I may borrow this phrase! I also often find that once you can entice someone to sit with the problem and nut it out, the satisfaction is great and it often instills the desire and capacity to learn more.
    Cheers George,
    Mary(@Mj0401Mary)

  • Kelly

    Hi George, I enjoyed your post and often feel my time is taken to fix other problems leaving me little time to get into my mindset to try new things. Also, I am more often feeling disgruntled because my time is spent developing other tech-ped-knowledge when no investment is made to help me further mine.Which I also do in my spare time. So can we differentiate teachers' tech-ped-knowledge or can we give them a device over the summer and let them gut up to par? Is there or should there be a level of comprehension/ability expected nowadays?

    @s2steacher

  • catherinems

    Dear George, your dad sounds a lot like mine. We were one of the first people to get a VCR in our neighbourhood too (Dad travelled a lot and got tired of missing the end of the series he was watching). We could program one too.

    Most of my technology skills are self taught. There are a couple of reasons for this. Firstly, education has unique uses for technology, so general courses are often to relevant. Secondly, they like to lock you in to a beginning, intermediate, advanced process and don't often let you jump in to where you are. Life is too short to sit through that.

  • Shane Pilkie

    Hi George, I like your thinking in this area. Mindset, rather than skill set plays a critical role in learning. Trying, exploring and trying again are crucial steps in learning and are also some of the reasons that some people appear more 'tech savvy' than others – it's the willingness to explore, 'click the button' without excessive fear of what might happen as a result. We have to take risks in order to learn and technology actually creates environments where we can explore without great risk to self – the worst that can happen is that you need to reset/restore your device.

  • RCosby

    This post will be shared with my staff!!! For the sake of our students we have to grow and evolve period!

  • Pingback: More About Mindset and Learning

  • Pingback: Mindset for the New Year | Rethinking Learning - Barbara Bray

  • Pingback: 4 Assumptions We Shouldn’t Make in Education | The Principal of Change

  • Pingback: Annual Guide to Schools » Learning and Life